HP: bye bye LeftHand, welcome StoreVirtual

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Disclaimer: I’ve been invited to HP Discover in Frankfurt by HP, and they paid for my travel and hotel expenses. However, I have no obligation to write anything about HP, and none of the articles in this blog is pre-approved by any vendor.

Last week, HP Storage Division took the lion’s share at HP Discover. Almost every product in the portfolio has been updated, except for the small P2000. While new 3Par models has been the superstars, and StoreAll got great interest, there has been many news also about my beloved LeftHand.

I should be honest, I appreciate this technology all along: linear scaleout, redundancy by network raid, but also ease of management and a complete set of features without any additional required license has always been great points while evaluating it.

Previous models were starting to be a little outdated, so HP introduced a completely new lineup.


 The new LeftHand, ops I mean StoreVirtual

The very first news, even if already known from some time, is the name itself: LeftHand has become StoreVirtual (Store-something is more in general the name of the new HP storages). “Virtual” seems to be the core element of the products, even if there are 5 new hardware models; nonetheless also the VSA (virtual storage appliance) has been updated.

The name “Leftand” however has not disappeared: the operating system previously known as San IQ has become LeftHand OS, and its first version is 10.0 (San IQ last version was 9.5).


The new hardware models

HP addes 5 news StoreVirtual hardware models. All of them are based on the new server architecture Generation 8, thus adding a visible news: they are all now 1U tall, while previous models were 2U. For really dense installations, or for hosted costumers, a 50% reduction in rack usage is a great improvement.
For sure the usage of Gen8 servers has brought other benefits: more powerful CPUs, faster RAM, more efficient controllers.

Disk subsystem deserves a deep examination. First of all the controller: now it’s a new P420i, with 2 Gb onboard cache. There are no more 3.5″ disks, replaced by 2.5″ disks. Also, there are no more 15k rpm disks, but only 10k. HP told me the higher density of those disks and the new controller conbine for better performances anyway, improving at the same time price and power consumption.
There are no plans at the moment for new SSD based models. For those of you willing to use SSDs, you can still buy the 4900 verison, or build a server with SSDs and run VSA on top of it.

The new models’ details are:

ModelCodeDrivesCapacityHost Interfaces
4130 600GB SAS StorageB7E16A4 * 600 GB 6G 10K SFF Dual-port SAS2.4TB Starting
76.8TB Maximum
4 * 1 GbE iSCSI Ports
4330 1TB MDL SAS StorageB7E19A8 * 1 TB 6G 10K SFF Dual-port MDL SAS8TB Starting
256TB Maximum
4 * 1 GbE iSCSI Ports
Optional upgrade to 2 * 10GbE iSCSI
4330 450GB SAS StorageB7E17A8 * 450 GB 6G 10K SFF Dual-port SAS3.6TB Starting
115.2TB Maximum
4 * 1 GbE iSCSI Ports
Optional upgrade to 2 * 10GbE iSCSI
4330 900GB SAS StorageB7E18A8 * 900 GB 6G 10K SFF Dual-port SAS7.2TB Starting
230.4TB Maximum
4 * 1 GbE iSCSI Ports
Optional upgrade to 2 * 10GbE iSCSI
4330 FC 900GB SAS StorageB7E20A8 * 900 GB 6G 10K SFF Dual-port SAS7.2TB Starting
230.4TB Maximum
4 * 1 GbE iSCSI Ports
2 * 10 GbE iSCSI Ports
2 * 8 Gb Fibre Channel Ports



there is a real news about the frontend: for the first time ever a LeftHand storage is no more iSCSI-only, but offers also FC connectivity. This addition brings some interesting commercial advantages, targeting now those customers where FC is mandatory so they would not have bought an iSCSI-only storage. Furthermore, the FC model has from the beginning all the 1G and 10G iSCSI connections available.

Better explain this: FC connectivity is available only on the FrontEnd. BackEnd as always is managed via iSCSI interconnections between the nodes of the cluster, and both replica and management are done here. The usage of 4 Gbit connection instead of the previous 2 has been done to better manage the higher troughput of the new models, especially for replica activities. This new design allows new configurations, as HP guys explained to me in this outline:

  • You do not need to use FC-based StoreVirtual for all the nodes. You need at least 2 FC nodes (for redundancy) to export a LUN via FC, while the LUN itself is then replicated a spread among all nodes, even those with iSCSI only (red lines in the outline). This allows you to add FC models to an existing cluster if you want, or use them to do migrations from FC-only storages towards a StoreVirtual system
  • In the past some customers complained for the need to connect via the iSCSI network to manage them. Having only 2 connections, you were force to use both in the same subnet to guarantee redundancy for eveery node. Now, with 4 connections available, you can use one of them for management purposes, using an IP address completely different from those of the iSCSI network (pale blu in the outline). So, we can say now StoreVirtual has a management connection!
Also the Virtual Storage Appliance has been updated.
Using the same LeftHand OS 10.0, it has now 2 vCPU, can scale up to 3 Gb of RAM anc can use datastores up to 10 Tb. Dual CPU allows faster I/O, so you can safely use now SSD in the underlying server. Also, HP already announced the 10Tb limit will be further increased in the near future, even if looking at the previous table, VSA is already the StoreVirtual with the biggest local storage available.
LeftHand OS and CMC
Besides the new name, software has other improvements. All the existing features are still there, and many more has been added:
  • Remote Copy: the code has been improved and now HP claims it can reduce copy operations up to 3X
  • Active Directory Integration: you can now authenticate users or groups based on Active Directory. There are still only Administrators or Read-Only roles, but HP guys told me they are working on a more granular permission schema.
  • Selective Download: this is a little but appreciated improvement. FOr those of you who already used LeftHand in the past, you know the first set of updates were about 7-8 Gb, and you would need to download all of them before applying the updates. Now you can use this feature to download only the needed upgrades.
  • Active Tasks Box: it’s a small box in the right of the console where you can see all running tasks, also those scheduled (and invisible in the past). This is useful when you need for example to check if a scheduled snapshot is running, without opening the snapshot section or the logs.
  • FC management: this is the real new area of the GUI, obvously needed to manage FC of the 4330FC model.

The updates of the LeftHand / StoreVirtual lineup are meaningful. Some has been unexpected like FC connectivity, others are the obvious evolution of the product itself.
I hope in the future StoreVirtual will become faithful to its name and will become a software only storage: the base system is the same for all models, even the VSA, and even if noone from HP will agree with what I’m about to say, in my opinion VSA is eroding market shares to its hardware-based brothers and that’s why it is right now performance bound. Thinking about the keynote at HP Discover where management underlined once again HP is primarily an hardware vendor, this is a confirmation to my theory: if a customer uses the VSA only, he can go out and buy the underlying server from other vendors.
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